Fossil leaves buried 55 million years ago show, for the first time, that rapid warming not only changed animal communities, but plant communities as well; and that the ancient warm spell may be representative of global warmings effects in Earths future, according to an international team of researchers.
"There has been an absence of fossil leaf sites dating to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM)," says Dr. Francesca A. Smith, postdoctoral researcher in geosciences, Penn State.
Scientists have long known that during the PETM, mammalian communities changed, but without plant fossil samples, they could not say the same for plants. The PETM is unusual because the warming of 9 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit occurred in only 10,000 years, a geologically short time span. Researchers believe that increased carbon dioxide caused the warming, but underlying causes of the increase are still being debated. "The PETM provides an important analog to present-day anthropogenic global warming, because the two episodes are inferred to have similar rates and magnitudes of carbon release and climate change," the researchers report in todays (Nov. 11) issue of Science.
A’ndrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
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